手稿或许会揭示一部隐秘的艺术史

Manuscripts May Reveal a Hidden Art History


手稿或许会揭示一部隐秘的艺术史

杨小彦


最近,我在指导我的学生写一篇艺术史的硕士论文,复杂度还是挺大的,是关于达·芬奇的《绘画笔记》。达·芬奇的《绘画笔记》其实是他思想的一份记录。从《笔记》看,他是一个很好的文图作家,所研究的,不仅有文字,关键是还有草图,这说明他一直在用文字和图像思考,表达他对世界的认知。达芬奇的研究很广泛,比如,他是个同性恋者,却研究女性子宫,研究怀孕的过程,还有图示。他也是坦克、航天器、潜水器的最早提出者,在《绘画笔记》里都有。


基于此,我觉得草图,或者说手稿,并不是简单的草图和手稿。以下这个观点我想是应该关注的:手稿本身就是一部艺术史,或者说,是一部隐秘的艺术史。我们有一部正常的艺术史,一部艺术的通史,这一部正常的艺术史,通常都是一代又一代的杰出的艺术家以及他们的作品的炫耀史、评价史、定位史。我们看到的艺术史,基本上都是这样的历史。至于定位本身是否准确,评价是否合适,炫耀得是否让人服气,背后有没有一些让后人感兴趣的内容,我想,这都是一些争论不休的问题,几乎是各家说各话。而在这样一部正常的艺术史的后面,是否还存在着另外一部艺术史?手稿本身说明,这样一部艺术史是存在的,它揭示了艺术家创作的想法,生动地记录了他们思考的发展过程,由于其中的“草根性”,甚至会让治史者得出和正史完全不同的结论。所以我才指出,手稿与草图构成另一部艺术史,或者它们构成了一部隐藏起来的艺术史。九十年代,我曾经和上海的学者朱学勤有过交往。有一次与他聊天,他说受到贡布里希的重要影响,贡布里希说要重视草图的意义,这一点启发了他,使得他有机会去重视审视那些没有成名的思想家,他称之为“草图式的思想家”,他们提出了很好的问题,但因为种种原因,这些问题没有解决,没有深入研究,没有机会发展成为成熟的体系,结果就在历史中消失了。朱学勤于是以这一观点为基础,写了一篇文章,讨论那些消失了的中国草图式思想家,他们不幸生活在一个政治极端的年代,曾经展现了某种独特的思想光辉,但是很快就消失了。当然,有的后来因形势的变化得以重新学习,重新努力,最后成为一代大家。其中最典型的莫过于著名经济学家杨曦光先生,当年他因为思想偏激而带来牢狱之灾,改革开放时期重新进入大学,出国留学,因成绩优秀而做了教授,在古典经济学领域成就斐然。对比起来,杨曦光的确是幸运的,因为还有很多这样的思想家,曾经灿烂,像流星一样划过天空,很快就消失了,甚至连名字也没有留下来。


这说明,手稿的意义一定超出我们通常的想象,让治史者利用这样的材料重新审视艺术史,并带来可能具有颠覆性的结论。这就是我想说的意思,手稿揭示了一部隐秘的艺术史。我想这个观点很重要。


在我的《篡图》的“后记”,我曾经指出,艺术批评是一部初级的历史。在这里我强调的“初级”,意思是首次或最初被记录下来的看法。关于“初级历史”这一提法,其实是在新闻学里,讨论新闻的历史价值,认为它就是一部初级的历史,新闻是一部初级的历史。因为所有事件首先是被媒体记录下来的,然后,后人去阅读这些个记录,并依据其中的事实试图还原历史本身。中山大学历史系著名的教授桑兵先生,他研究清末民初的学术社团现象,所依据的就是当年的各类报纸。如果没有这些当年报纸的初次记载,我们又如何去还原当年的历史?为得就是初级历史的意思。


回到艺术史,我们是否也存在着一部初级的历史?这是理所当然的,我们所从事的艺术批评,就是一部初级的艺术史,留下的是对出现的艺术的最初反映。艺术史学界一直有一个观点,似乎研究古代才是学术,才有意义,研究当代的,就没那么学术。其实我觉得这个看法是有所偏颇的。大家想想看,再过五百年,或者说五百年以后,我们今天所开的这个关于手稿价值的会议,就会成为博士研究的基础文本,会就此产生几本博士论文。其实,今天我们阅读和研究过去的“画品”和“画论”,不就是当年的艺术批评吗?为什么阅读古代的叫学术,反而阅读今天的就不学术了。这怎么说得通呢?


关键是,我们或许可以通过手稿发现与正统的艺术史所描述的不同的内容,加深我们对艺术家的独特性的认识。比如,我去采访北京的摄影家李晓斌,他是“四月影会”的核心人物,又是改革开放时期纪实摄影的重要先锋。我和他聊天,看他拍于七八十年代的照片,惊讶地发现,他是联结七十年代北京地下文化的关键人物,当年他手持相机游走在“今天”文学圈、“无名画会”和“星星画会”的艺术圈之间,留下了很多视觉素材。如果当年李晓斌没有随手拍下这些个不同团体的活动的照片,我们又如何知道那个特殊年代的地下文化运动?于是李晓斌的照片就提供了一个机会,让我们有必要重新指定上世纪七十年代中国的文化史。对于摄影而言,随手所拍的照片类似于手稿,它所揭示的,正是一部隐秘的艺术史。至少是一部初级的艺术史。


当然,我们也要注意另一个严重的问题,那就是把手稿变成一种艺术形式。这样一来,手稿就不再是手稿,而是一种有意识的制造。这样就推动了手稿的意义与价值。这就像文学,把日记变成一种写作方式,称之为“日记体”,比如鲁迅的《狂人日记》,是小说,而不是真的日记。郁达夫也如此,后来干脆用日记体去写作。这个时候,我们就不能把这一类的写作看成是“日记”,而是,它们就是小说的一种体裁。手稿也一样,当艺术家“制造”手稿的时候,手稿的意义与价值就消失了,我们只能把这一类“制造”的“手稿”看成是一种艺术语言,一种风格。这一点我们是要特别注意的。当我们研究艺术家过去的手稿时,一些年轻的艺术家却开始去“制造”手稿了。其实,老一辈艺术家也有这种情况,他们也可以“制造”手稿,然后去“改写”历史。这种可能性是有的,也是我们做研究的人要注意的地方。这也为我们提出了一个问题,如何去界定“手稿”。不界定清楚,手稿研究就无从谈起。


谢谢大家!




Manuscripts May Reveal a Hidden Art History


Recently, I was guiding my students to write a quite complex master's thesis on art history about Leonardo da Vinci’s Notes on Paintings, which is actually a record of his thoughts. Judging by the notes, he is a good writer and painter who was keen on expressing his understanding of the world through words and images. His research is very extensive. As a homosexual, he studied the womb and the process of pregnancy with handmade pictures. He is also the earliest proponent of tanks, spacecrafts, and submarines, all recorded in the notes.

Based on this, I think sketches, or manuscripts, are not simply sketches and manuscripts. I think we should concern ourselves about the following point: the manuscript itself is a history of art, or rather, a secret art history. We have an established art history about outstanding artists from one generation to another as well as the glory, the mostly favorable review and positioning of their works. This is basically what we know about art history. As for whether the positioning is accurate, whether the evaluation is appropriate, and whether the works deserve such recognition, these are controversial issues that have aroused endless debate. However, hidden behind such a “normal” art history, is there another one? The manuscript presents such a possibility. It not only reveals the artist's creative thinking and vividly documents the development of their thinking, but also may lead historians to make conclusions which run counter to the established stories because of their grassroots nature. It is for this reason that I’m saying that sketches and manuscripts constitute another hidden history. In the 1990s, I got acquainted with Zhu Xueqin, a scholar from Shanghai. He told me once that Gombrich gave him an important idea that one should pay attention to the manuscript. He was then prompted to reexamine the thinkers who failed to make fame. He called them the “draft-like thinkers”, who raised good questions, but for a variety of reasons these questions were not solved, nor thoroughly studied, and they vanished because they were not developed into a system. Based on this view, Zhu Xueqin wrote an article discussing the disappeared Chinese draft-like thinkers whose notable ideas sparkled but soon died out in the time of political extremism. Some of them managed to become great thinkers of the time as the situation improved. One of the most typical examples is Mr. Yang Xiguang, the well-known economist who made his mark in the field of classical economics. He was first imprisoned because of his revolutionary ideas, then re-entered university after the reform and opening-up policy and became a professor. In contrast, Yang Xiguang is indeed lucky, because there are many such thinkers who were like a flash in the pan and did not even leave their names.

This indicates that the meaning of the manuscript must go beyond our imagination and allow historians to re-examine the history of art with such material and bring about potentially disruptive conclusions. The manuscript reveals a secret art history. I think this view is very important.

In the afterword of my book Commend on Pictures, I pointed out that art criticism is a primary history. By "primary" I mean the opinion recorded for the first time. The “primary history" is actually a journalistic concept. In journalism, the news is considered as a primary history, because all events are first recorded by the media, and then they are read and interpreted by the posterity. For example, Mr. Sang Bing, a famous professor from the Department of History at Sun Yat-sen University, studied the phenomenon of academic associations in the late Qing and early Republic period based on the various newspapers of that time, without which there’s no way for us to restore the history of those years.

Back to the history of art, do we also have a primary history? Needless to say, there is one indeed, because the art criticism we are engaged in is a primary history of art, leaving behind the initial impression of the emerged art. The art historians seem to have always had a prejudice against the study of contemporary art, which is deemed less academic than the study of ancient art. But I think this view is biased. Think about it. In five hundred years, this conference on the value of manuscripts we are having today will become the basic subject of study for several doctoral dissertations. In fact, the past reviews that we study were nothing more than contemporary art criticism from the ancient times? Why the study of the past is considered academic, while studying the contemporary is not?

The point is that we may be able to discover something different from the description of orthodox art history and deepen our understanding of the artist's uniqueness through art history. For example, I interviewed Li Xiaobin in Beijing, a photographer who was the  core figure in the“April Photography Society” and an important vanguard of documentary photography during the reform and opening-up policy. I looked at his photographs taken in the ’70s and ‘80s, and was surprised to find that he was the key figure in connecting the underground cultures of Beijing in the 1970s. He left a lot of visual materials, wandered around the "Today" literature circle, “No Name” and “The Stars” art circles with a camera in the hand. Without these photos, how could we be acquainted with the underground cultural movement in that particular era? So Li Xiaobin's photos provide an opportunity for us to see China's cultural history in the 1970s in a different light. In photography, randomly-taken photos are similar to the manuscript, revealing a secret art history, or at least a primary art history.

Of course, we have to pay attention to another serious problem, that is, the manuscript should not be regarded as an art form, otherwise the manuscript would become consciously made. In literature, if the diary turns into a form of writing, it’s no longer a diary in nature, such as Lu Xun's Mad Men's Diary, which is a novel in disguise. Another writer Yu Dafu also applied the form of diary in his penmanship. In these cases, the writing is no longer diary, but fictions in the form of diary. Likewise, if a manuscript is consciously created, the meaning and value of the manuscript disappears. We can only regard this fabricated manuscript as an art language and a style. We should pay special attention to this point. While we are studying manuscripts from the past, some young artists have begun to "create" manuscripts. In fact, the older generation of artists might have done the same thing to rewrite history, and we need to be aware of this problem. This also raises a question for us as how to define the "manuscript". Without a clear definition, the manuscript research is impossible to go forward.

Thank you!